Tips for Recording Audio Interviews with a Smartphone

Recommended Apps and Hardware:


Voice Memo (iPhone) – Free
The built-in iPhone Voice Memo utility does a decent job of recording audio. It features a simple sound level display and the ability to label, trim and email sound clips.
To access, go to Utilities>Voice Memo

Easy Voice Recorder (Android) – Free or $3.99
This simple app records WAVE and .mp4 files. You can share and manage your recordings and access files via your device’s external storage.

VC Audio Pro ($6.99)
This app features professional sound quality, customizable settings, and can be used with microphone and headphone adapters.

XLR Adapter ($60)XLR__41747_zoom__84913_zoom__94531_std
-If you use the VC Audio Pro App, you can use an XLR adapter to connect a microphone and headphones. Adapter and microphones can be checked out in Bozorth 105O.


  • Make sure your cell phone battery is fully charged.
  • Find a quiet place for interviews. Phones pick up a lot of background noise. If outside, move out of wind.
  • Cell phones can overheat on hot days. Be careful in direct sunlight.
  • Practice with your phone and apps before you go out to interview.
  • Test the quality of your phone in different situations: inside, outside, and at various distances from your subject.



Turn your phone to Airplane Mode so your audio won’t be interrupted by calls or texts.
To turn it on, go to Settings>Airplane Mode

Locate your phone’s microphone.
For example, on the iPhone, the grill on the left is the microphone. The one on the right is a speaker used to play music.

Check your levels.
Press record. Make sure it is recording and you can see the meter registering sounds. Move your device closer to subject until you are at correct levels.

audioplacementPlace phone about four inches (or the width of a fist) from person’s mouth.
If it’s further away, you won’t get quality sound. Sitting the phone a table is fine if you are writing a story and want to transcribe quotes, but it won’t produce audio worth hearing. Don’t hand your phone over the person you are interviewing.

Keep your hand steady.
Fiddling with your phone may be audible on your recording.

Get and ID.
Have source say name, age, hometown, occupation. Have them spell their name.

Be silent when source is speaking.
Don’t say “uh huh,” laugh, or react audibly. Maintain eye contact. Give nonverbal cues.

Record multiple files or use add markers.vclevels
If you have a break in an interview, stop and then create a new file. It makes it easier to find good quotes later. Some apps allow you to add markers while recording so you can identify key places in your interview.

Record one minute of room tone.
Press record and let your phone capture the sound of the room. This can come in handy later when you edit and want to fill in gaps.

Record natural sound effects from location.
Capturing the natural sounds of a location – eggs frying in a kitchen, dogs barking in a yard, a dentist drilling teeth – can make your audio stories more vivid. Label each one after you record it.

When you are finished, make sure you have a saved audio file.
After you hit stop, don’t shut off your phone and walk away. Look at the file. Make sure it recorded and saved. Play some of it back so you can hear it. Then name it so you can find it later.

Transfer audio files from your phone to your computer.
Some audio apps allow you to edit on your phone. This is great if you want to upload something on the go, but it can be difficult to make clean edits with your thumbs. For best results, transfer your files to your computer and edit it there.

For small files, you can often email them to yourself. Use the Share>Email option.

With many Android phones you can plug it into a USB and then drag and drop audio files.

iPhones require that you sync with iTunes. (WARNING: Don’t do not synch your iPhone to a university iTunes account. This can erase your phone.)

Some apps, like the VC Audio Pro allow you to transfer files from a iPhone to a computer via a WiFi connection.

Audio Reporting and Editing Resources

On Interviewing – Alex Blumberg,

Audio 101: A quick and dirty guide to recording your story, Common Language Project

Gathering Audio by Brian Storm,

Really Simple Audio for Bloggers: From Recorder to, Mark Berkey-Gerard

Converting Audio Files
If you are using recent version of GarageBand (09 or newer) or Audacity and your phone saves as WAVE, .mp3 or .m4a, you may not need to convert your file. Try importing or dragging into your work space. If you need to convert it, use this Switch tutorial.

Garage Band (Mac)
Watch video overview Garage Band Basics for Journalists (8:50)
Read though GarageBand Podcast Setup and Overview for detailed instructions.

Audacity (PC and Mac)
Watch video overview Audacity Basics for Journalists (11:24)
Setting up preferences in Audacity (pdf) – these preferences must be set BEFORE you open your first audio file in Audacity
Superfast Guide to Audio Editing (pdf) – includes instructions for installing Audacity on your home computer. (Mindy McAdams)
Editing Audio with Audacity (Part 2) (pdf) – more detailed instructions (Mindy McAdams)
How to Use Audacity (Knight Digital Media Center)

Pro Tools
How to Use Pro Tools, Knight Digital Media Center

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